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Aiming for productivity and growth

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Sunaina Rana/ Emirates Business

Leading organisations worldwide count on NetApp for software, systems and services to manage and store their data. Customers value the IT company’s teamwork, expertise and passion for helping the clients succeed in achieving their goal.
Alfred Manhart, Head of EMEA Channel at NetApp, is leader of the combined channel and system integration (SI) business across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). He is responsible for midsize business, channel enablement, distribution, multi-national partners, and system integrators. Emirates Business talks to Manhart about NetApp’s 2016 business stratergy.

What will be NetApp’s main areas of focus in 2016?
Two of NetApp’s main areas of focus and investment in the coming year will be in flash and hybrid cloud, both of which we believe present a broad range of opportunities for the channel. But the most interesting conversations are not only focussed on solutions. They revolve around service-based value creation and how we enable channel partners in the ‘as-a-service’ world.

Can you please elaborate.

Storage, compute, virtualisation — these things are already heavily commoditised. To differentiate themselves, channel partners need to offer verticalised services. This means building expertise for financial, automotive, or manufacturing customers, and designing services for these industries. In 2016 and beyond this will be the way channel partners deliver value to their customers. The underlying solutions are just means to an end.

What do you think about cloud strategy? How will the adoption develop in the
coming year?

Customers continue to see the value in a cloud strategy and, as such, migration to the cloud will continue throughout 2016. The general acceptance that customers want to migrate to an all public or all private cloud is outdated. In the majority of cases, a hybrid cloud solution will be preferable for customers. NetApp will work with its partners make hybrid cloud migrations as easy and beneficial as possible for businesses. Again, services help to differentiate.

What will be the company’s Data Fabric vision for the channel?
Today’s workloads and IT environments are flash-enabled and stretch across a variation of clouds. The challenge for the channel is ensuring a common management platform exists, such as the NetApp Data Fabric. This fabric acts as a single management panel across flash, disk, object storage, and different types of clouds for backup, hyperscale, or other services. We can and will provide Data Fabric solution kits for the channel, which make it easy for partners to assist customers in piloting cloud projects.

What could NetApp’s acquisition mean for the channel?
We see the acquisition of SolidFire as a huge opportunity for NetApp and our channel in the coming year, especially with SP and advanced enterprise customers. SolidFire’s scale-out block storage has unique characteristics that accelerate automation, DevOps, or web-based business models. It really is a next-gen solution that benefits current and future channel partners looking to offer ‘webscale cloud provider’-type services.

What is the company’s strategy on delivering value to its channel partners?
Hardware sales created the bulk of the revenue in the millennium’s first decade. Today, our partners’ business success is dictated by the services they provide. So the value creation rests no more with resellers and distributors only. Instead, we see a more complex setup of different partners collectively serving customers in a given vertical, delivering consulting, applications, infrastructure, co-location services, and management/hosting. We are building programs and partner expertise to help the channel tackle this complexity.
Another thing we are committed to is accelerating time to market. Speed, especially for building and rolling out applications, is a key differentiator for flash vendors. It’s a great value message that partners can sell to ISVs and innovation-minded customers.

How will NetApp enable channel partners to achieve their goals?
At NetApp, we are committed to provide our partners with services that give them a competitive advantage, leading to profitability and growth. At a foundational level we are continuing with technical and services enablement for cloud and flash. Looking further ahead we traditionally launch a significant portion of our channel updates in August at the beginning of our fiscal year Q2. These updates will reflect the channel shifting towards services. The challenge is to bring in partners and enable them contribute revenue in a time of increasing project complexity. We want to lead this behavioural change towards the modern way of doing channel business.

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